About the Tissue Trade Project – ICIJ

Skin And Bone: The Shadowy Trade In Human Body Parts is an eight-month project by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a global network of reporters who collaborate on in-depth investigative stories that cross national boundaries

ICIJ found the business of recycling dead humans has grown so large over the past decade that you can buy stock in publicly traded companies that rely on corpses for their raw materials.

Skin and bones donated by relatives of the dead are turned into everything from bladder slings to surgical screws to material used in dentistry or plastic surgery.

Distributors of the merchandise can be found in much of the world. Some are subsidiaries of billion-dollar multinational medical corporations.

ICIJ discovered that patients aren’t always told that the product they are getting originated from a corpse. This led to a more complex issue – how does the industry source the raw material it uses in its products?

Inquiries were conducted across 11 countries and the project was co-researched with National Public Radio and Newsday(USA), the Kiev Post (Ukraine), The Daily Slovakia (Slovakia) and La Voce della Repubblica Ceca (Czech Republic).

The ICIJ’s investigation relied on more than 200 interviews with industry insiders, government officials, surgeons, lawyers, ethicists and convicted felons, as well as thousands of court documents, regulatory reports, criminal investigation findings, corporate records and internal company memos.

ICIJ also conducted analysis on registered tissue banks, imports, inspections, adverse events, and deviation reports filed with the Food and Drug Administration, the US agency that polices the trade.  ICIJ obtained the data through records requests to the FDA.

Palantir donated the use of software and assisted reporters in analyzing and visualizing data, as well as provided interactive and still graphics for ICIJ and partner publications.

The project was unveiled at the Google Ideas INFO Summit.

The Team

Kate Willson (USA) Vlad Lavrov (Ukraine), Martina Keller (Germany), Thomas Maier (USA), Mar Cabra (Spain), Nari Kim (South Korea), William Venuti and Antonio Aldo Papaleo (Slovakia), Alexenia Dimitrova (Bulgaria), Michael Hudson(USA), and reporters from National Public Radio (USA).

ICIJ Director: Gerard Ryle

ICIJ Data Editor: David Donald

ICIJ Digital Editor: Kimberley Porteous

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